The release of the UK's GDP with a better-than-expected 0.3% growth in July, has raised chances of the UK avoiding a recession and boosted the pound. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that all sectors of the economy grew in the month – the first of the third quarter, with manufacturing also expanding by 0.3%, and the industrial sector growing by 0.1% during the month. However, the last three months the GDP has remained flat, as Brexit uncertainty has impacted on investment.

This is why, despite Brexit recession fears having eased, the economy remains under pressure. For example, the services sector growth might be an indication that businesses are stockpiling in preparation for Brexit as its outcome continues to be unknown. Plus, as many economists indicate, it is unclear for how long growth will continue.

KPMG report  

As accountancy firm KPMG forecasted, there is a possibility of Britain falling into a recession in 2020 if it leaves the EU without a deal. According to the firm, a no-deal Brexit will negatively affect the UK’s trade and business confidence and lead to the economy shrinking by 1.5% in 2020. The accountancy giant is not the first to warn of the negative effects of Brexit on the economy, as experts have already underlined the grim economic outlook for Britain.

Forecasts by the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility, have also highlighted the negative economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit and, consequently, of losing access to the EU single market and customs union.

The possible recession will cause a rise in unemployment, a decline in consumer spending and an estimated 6 percent slide in house prices, the KPMG report added.

Yael Selfin, the  KPMG’s chief economist noted that in the case of a recession resulting from a no-deal Brexit, the decline in the pound’s exchange rate will “push up inflation to above the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target, potentially forcing the central bank to lower its key interest rate to near zero.”  With the central bank’s key rate currently standing at 0.75 per cent, interest rate cuts will possibly be no higher than 1 percentage point.

The report also said: “[The new government’s] resolve to leave the EU by 31 October has become increasingly clear . . . and the proximity of the date make the outlook for the next two years rather bipolar.” KPMG added that the pound’s 10 percent expected decline in value, will hurt even exporters as issues over borders will eliminate any positive effect the weaker currency might have. Selfin said: “The most damaging impacts could come from potential shortages of imported foodstuffs as well as medicines in the immediate term, negatively impacting households’ sentiment.”

Selfin could not be clearer when discussing the damaging effects of a no-deal on the economy: “With the Brexit debate poised on a knife-edge, the UK economy is now at a crossroads. It is difficult to think of another time when the UK has been on the verge of two economic out-turns that are so different, but the impact of a no-deal Brexit should not be underestimated. Despite headwinds such as the slowing global economy and limited domestic capacity, the UK economy now has the potential to strengthen over the next 12 months. But a no-deal Brexit could put paid to this upside, triggering the UK’s first recession for a decade.”

Government and Bank of England will be unable to stop a recession

Indeed, the outlook looks grim as the economy contracted by 0.2 percent between April and June, with investment and growth being limited. 

On Monday (9 September), the Resolution Foundation thinktank in its assessment of the UK’s readiness to respond to the next recession, said that the government and the Bank of England were unprepared and that this was a significant risk that policy makers should take seriously. As the think tank noted: “The UK’s macroeconomic policy framework has not kept pace with significant changes to our economic environment and is therefore at risk of leaving the country underprepared for the next recession. That is not a risk policymakers should take lightly.”

 In its key findings, the think tank stressed that the country was facing the biggest risk of recession since 2007, that those of lower incomes would be the most exposed to the recession and that monetary policy will be unable to provide “anything like the level of support it has previously in recessions, reflecting what appears to be a secular decline in the level of interest rates around the world.”

Importing and exporting

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